7 Days on the North Coast 500: The Best Itinerary for Your Visit
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Your North Coast 500 itinerary of 7 days begins with exploring Scotland's Inverness area. It is a popular town for travellers discovering this iconic route. Plenty of historic attractions await you here, such as Inverness Castle. A fortress has existed at the site since 1057, though the current incarnation dates to 1836. It is located on the banks of the River Ness and looms over the surrounding landscape.
An excursion to Loch Ness for an amazing cruise experience is the perfect way to wrap up the 1st day of your itinerary. It is an area steeped in folklore that includes tales of the legendary Nessie. We recommend booking the round-trip route that takes you around famed sites like Urquhart Castle.
Continue to immerse yourself in the history of Inverness as you start the 2nd day of your itinerary. Located on Castle Wynd, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery first opened in 1826. It features an array of exhibitions covering topics like geology, archaeology and natural history. The upstairs galleries focus on the more recent history of the Scottish Highlands. You will encounter artefacts that include weapons, Inverness silverware, bagpipes and memorabilia from the Jacobites. Opening hours depend on the season when you visit.
Before leaving the Inverness area and continuing your North Coast 500 itinerary of 7 days, setting aside some time for shopping on High Street is a must. This is the area's most popular district for boutique shops offering unique, local products. Alongside independent retailers, you will find national and international brands. The street is also known for its galleries and bookshops. When you get hungry, you will be spoiled for choice with many nearby pubs, cafés and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat. We also recommend visiting the Victorian Market. It is a shopping arcade that dates to the 19th century. Lined with tiny shops and eateries, this unique attraction is located on Academy Street.
Travelling roughly an hour north of Inverness along the North Coast 500, you will arrive at Dornoch Beach. This magical stretch of sand extends for several kilometres along the Scottish coast. It is a great place to stop off for a refreshing swim on a hot day. We recommend a visit during low tide so you can enjoy a relaxing stroll spent taking in the beautiful surroundings. Next to the beach, you will find a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is home to fascinating local flora and fauna that includes nesting birds. If you get hungry, you will find some great lunch options back in town.
The Falls of Shin are just over a half-hour drive northwest of Dornoch Beach. There are plenty of signposts to guide you to the car park when you arrive at this beautiful collection of cascading falls. This is a magical location any time of year, but it is particularly fascinating during the summer when salmon migrate to the area to spawn. Keep an eye out for these fish leaping out of the water in an impressive display that will take your breath away.
Your North Coast 500 itinerary of 7 days continues as you arrive in the town of Wick. Start your day in the area by visiting the spectacular remains of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. Located on a rocky cliffside that overlooks the sea, the castle was built in 1470. It once served as the seat of the powerful Sinclair family but is now in a state of ruin. Despite this, it is a fascinating location, offers some of the region's best views and is the perfect place to take some amazing photos.
The Pulteney Distillery is among the northernmost distilleries in Scotland. Launched in 1826, it is famed for the single malt whisky that it has been producing for the past couple of centuries. You will find this fascinating attraction located on the harbour in Wick. During your tour, you will learn about the master craftsmanship that goes into producing good whisky. The chance to sample this iconic spirit adds to the overall experience.
The next leg of your North Coast itinerary of 7 days brings you to the northernmost location in mainland Scotland. This is the charming village of John O' Groats. Although it is a small community, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do nearby. Recommended points of interest include the iconic John O' Groats Signpost. Take the opportunity to get some photos next to this marker that signifies that you are at the UK's most northerly point. It is next to the local harbour. After taking some photos to remember your holiday, you can enjoy a stroll along the coastal walk that leads to Duncansby Head Lighthouse. On the way there, you will pass the Ness of Duncansby and the Bay of Sannick. The views you will encounter are all postcard-worthy.
Stunning views of the Orkney Islands are available from the Pentland Firth on clear days. A great way to add variety to your North Coast 500 itinerary of 7 days is to take the ferry to explore them in person. It takes around 40 minutes to get from the mainland to Orkney. Upon your arrival, you will be greeted by dramatic sea cliffs, idyllic beaches and mysterious Neolithic sites built around 5,000 years ago.
The 6th day of your North Coast 500 itinerary takes you to the southwestern portion of the route and the beautiful village of Lochinver. Start your time in the area by travelling 500 million years into the past from a geological standpoint. Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve is located at the point where a pair of continental plates once crashed together. The result was the exposure of many layers of rock, ranging from young layers to ones that originate deep in Earth's prehistory. You will have no trouble finding memorable views as you explore the rugged environment and its scattered lochs. Wear comfortable walking shoes to explore the reserve.
Spending some time relaxing on the beach is a great way to follow up your exploration of Lochinver's fascinating geological past. Achmelvich Beach is one of the area's most popular and is known for its white sand. It is a hotspot for camping, windsurfing, waterskiing, fishing and kayaking. It is also close to some excellent hiking and climbing trails if you are looking for a bit of physical exertion.
Your North Coast itinerary of 7 days wraps up in the village of Ullapool, from which you can enjoy another excursion to a key geological point of interest. The Bone Caves got their name from the bones of various animals that were found in them, such as lynx, reindeer and polar bears. An ivory pin from around 2,000 years ago was another incredible discovery made inside this system of caves.
Enjoying a memorable night out is the perfect way to wrap up your North Coast itinerary of 7 days in Ullapool. The village offers some great nightlife opportunities with local pubs. Many of these welcoming watering holes have live music on in the evening to add to the fun and atmosphere. A few recommendations include the Ferry Boat Inn, Ceilidh Place Ullapool, the Waterfront Bar and the Seaforth.
The Links House at Royal Dornoch 5* is a stunning, 15-room retreat located in the charming Scottish Highland community of Inverness. It is one of our top recommendations if you are planning a North Coast itinerary of 7 days. The property is close to spectacular viewpoints and is popular with golf enthusiasts as there are some great local courses nearby.
On-site amenities at this 5-star hotel include free parking, a laundry service, a concierge service, a golf course, a tour desk, a library and 4 restaurant/bar facilities.
What we like: We love this property's proximity to world-class golf courses and distilleries and the afternoon tea that is served daily at the Links House.
You will find the Ness Walk Hotel 5* located on the banks of the River Ness. Breakfast is served daily to help you get going before exploring the region's iconic landscapes and villages. The 5-star accommodation itself is situated in a historic, listed building and features 47 well-appointed rooms.
Key on-site facilities include the Torrish Bar and Restaurant, the Bruach Bistro & Booze, a concierge service, Wi-Fi and airport transfers. In-room amenities include a coffee machine, a turndown service, air conditioning and a mini-fridge.
What we like: We love this property's lush décor and its luxurious terrace with private seating that offers lovely views of the surrounding countryside.
You will find 90 luxurious rooms spread across 5 floors when you book your stay at the Pentahotel Inverness 4*. The property is just a few minutes' walk from the local railway station and features a range of modern amenities that make it a great choice for your North Coast itinerary of 7 days.
During your stay, you can look forward to facilities that include outdoor parking, a laundry service, a lift, Wi-Fi, a fitness centre and the on-site Pentalounge Bar & Restaurant.
What we like: We love the fact that this property offers you the perfect place to unwind after a day exploring the sights and sounds of the North Coast. Convenient proximity to the local railway station is another plus.
A stay at Natural Retreats - John O'Groats is the perfect option for the northern leg of your trip. You will be comfortably accommodated in a 3 Bed Lodge equipped with a wood-burning fire, on-site parking, luxurious furnishings and a welcome hamper filled with local produce and a complimentary bottle of wine. For an additional fee, you can also bring your furry friends along to this dog-friendly accommodation.
Each residence at this unique property features a fully-fitted kitchen, en-suite baths/showers and a decked area with outdoor furniture.
What we like: We love the spacious rooms offered at Natural Retreats - John O'Groats. They are ideally suited for families or groups of friends exploring the North Coast of Scotland.
Located in Wick, Ackergill Tower is home to 17 luxury rooms. This fantastic accommodation is steeped in more than 500 years of history and is an idyllic option for a romantic getaway to the North Coast.
This deal is based on a bed and breakfast stay in a Classic Room. During your holiday, enjoy mouth-watering cuisine that is prepared using local produce, fresh seafood and lamb that is raised by local farmers.
What we like: We love the historic character of this booking and its proximity to top points of interest that include the Old Pulteney Distillery, the Castle of Mey, the Wick Heritage Centre, the village of John O'Groats and the Orkneys.
A few tips for your North Coast itinerary of 7 days include driving your personal vehicle or hiring a car if you can. Prepare to encounter many single-track roads during your exploration of the various points of interest along the route. Beyond this, you should pack clothing for all types of weather as conditions can rapidly change in this part of Scotland.
May to October is the best time of year to take a road trip around the North Coast 500 route. You will find the largest number of open attractions and the best weather conditions when you visit during this time.
Scotland's North Coast 500 is a scenic route that covers 830 kilometres of the country's northern coast. Getting there from other parts of the UK is simple, given the region's well-maintained network of roadways. There are also ample public transportation options that include bus and train routes. The major airport in this part of Scotland is in Inverness.
There are plenty of unique Scottish foods that you should sample during your exploration of Scotland's North Coast 500. We recommend iconic dishes like haggis, fish and chips (ask for a "fish supper" to get the chips) and a full Scottish breakfast. You should also sample the famed seafood soup called Cullen skink (smoked haddock soup) and the traditional dessert made from fresh cream and raspberries called cranachan.